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 The following is an opinion piece, written by David Todeschini - Webmaster for Veterans For Constitutional Law.

     Veterans For Constitutional Law currently has over 83,000 members as of April 2009. No doubt, we are emerging as a formidable force for veteran's rights and benefits. In a recent discussion with Art Bernklau, our Executive Director, the subject of membership dues came up. There are presently no membership dues requirements, but donations are accepted in order to keep the organization going.


     Running any organization or office necessarily incurs operating expenses. Currently, a great portion of those expenses are borne by a few donors, and several of the principals. When I heard this, I thought it strange, and so I decided to write this article to bring it to light among the membership.


     First of all, It occurs to me that not even 1/10th of our membership has ever visited this Web site. This is evidenced by the "unique visitors" counter at the bottom of each page. If every member had logged on at least ONCE since this site was first established, the counter should read over 83,000 "unique visitors".


      Secondly, it is hard to imagine even a monthly communication with our membership is even possible, because to send out 83,000 newsletters through the mail would cost about $40,000; money that the organization simply doesn't have.


      Thirdly, Membership in an organization is meaningless and fruitless, if the membership is "in name only". There has to be some level of support from the membership if the organization is to continue to accomplish its goals, and continue to win victories on behalf of its membership and the Veteran community at large. Remember, Senate Bill -3421 which gives disabled veterans who are being denied their benefits by the VA the legal right to take the VA into Federal Court closest to the veteran's home with their own attorneys at any stage of the VA's adjudication. We are responsible for the passage of this monumental law. The veteran's organizations - especially the DAV, fought tooth and nail to defeat this bill which they could not do.


      We are also responsible for the jailing in Federal prison of the "Dirty Dozen" in Atlanta. The "Dirty dozen" consisted of twelve rating board members from the Atlanta, GA, Veteran's Administration, and Sarah Prater, who was the Congressional Liaison

and a long-time VA employee at the Atlanta GA Veterans Administration. I'm sorry to say that the "Dirty Dozen" were all veterans, who substituted their (own) claim numbers for that of deceased veterans, thereby cheating their families out of over 4.1 million dollars.


     At the time, Mr. Anthony Principi refused to fire these people, but instead said that he was shifting their employment over to the VA in Arizona. My reply to him was, "Not while I'm alive you're not!". My next move was to fly down to Atlanta and make sure that Judge Richard Storey - the toughest Federal judge in Atlanta was sitting on the case. Judge Storey gave these people six years in Federal prison, subsequent parole was denied. Several years prior, two Board of Veterans Appeals lawyers were caught altering and shredding disabled veteran's claim files to avoid paying veteran's disability claims. One of the lawyers, Mr. Gottfried, was found to have 90 disabled veteran's claim files all cut up in pieces in his kitchen garbage can when the FBI raided his home in Maryland. Unfortunately, all these two VA lawyers got as prison terms was 15 months each. I'm sorry to say this again but there was very little that we could do after the Federal Judge's decision. THESE TWO VA LAWYERS SHOULD HAVE GOTTEN 15 YEARS. However, Art Bernklau promises you this; there will be another time and another day. We are currently battling the VA once again on the matter of Ms. Blyskal the Executive Director of the NY Regional VA office, who I will refer to  as New York Veteran's Administration Regional Office (NYVARO), her associate director, and four senior managers who have all been caught altering disabled veteran's records and files in order to deny their claims. Once again, with the help of House Veteran's Affairs Committee chairman Filner (D-CA), Congressman Hall (D-NY), and other Congressional stooges, they have not fired any of these perpetrators from NYVARO, or put them in jail where they belong, but have decided instead to shift their job sites to other locations  within the same building at West Houston St., NYC. When the old VA building, which was located on 7th Avenue, NYC was being renovated, hundreds of destroyed Veteran's disability claim files were found at the bottom of an empty elevator shaft. So far, nothing has been done about this outrage.


    We need members who are going to be active - not only with donations; and believe me - I know that the Veterans Communities across America are among the poorest communities in our nation {they are kept that way purposely by the VA and their stooges in Congress} we need members who will actively not only pursue their claims, but help other veterans to do the same, and encourage them to get their cases out of the VA adjudication system and into REAL courts in front of REAL judges.... even better - in front of a jury. IN A JURY TRIAL THE V.A. IS DEAD IN THE WATER BEFORE THEY EVEN BEGIN.



       The reality of the situation is that we are not as effective as we should be, because there is no means of communicating with the membership, and thus no way to keep our community informed - even of what the organization has accomplished on behalf of the membership. We have established this Web site over a year ago, in order to attract new membership, and to provide an alternative to snail-mailing paper newsletters which would cost a small fortune.


        We recently had to switch to a file service archive service to host some large files that people were downloading from the site, since the bandwidth was exceeded several times, and there were charges involved (that I personally paid) for the overage. Most of the downloads are now hosted by a service that pays for the bandwidth charges by embedded advertising, and perhaps there will be a bit left over for the Web site operating "kitty".


         If membership in Veterans For Constitutional Law were a mere $1.00 / MONTH, we could generate a million  - tax free - dollars a year! We could buy a few foreclosed properties and open an office that ISN'T run out of the directors' home; an office that would be accessible to the Veteran public, and we could provide subsidized housing for some of the homeless war heroes who are presently foraging for their next meal from Times Square trash cans.... and we could afford to at least partially reimburse those who have been supporting the organization's operating expenses out of their own pockets all these many years.


        Finally, and perhaps most importantly, an organization that ISN'T under-funded, and has the ability to instantly communicate with its members would strike FEAR into the politicians who have overseen the wholesale screwing of our nations military veterans for DECADES, because we will have won the greatest battle of all - the battle within an organization for solidarity within itself.


         The Web site here is my attempt to solve the communications issue. A Web site and e-Mail communication is both instantaneous and inexpensive. It negates the need for squandering of money sending out letters in the mail, and it provides a means by which the communication can instantly be duplicated and propagated ad infinitum. Members can send links to their friends to pages on the Web site, and FORWARD emails and e-mailed newsletters at no cost.


       Veterans For Constitutional Law has been effective in our recent victory in getting veterans the right to take their disability compensation denials into Federal Court with their own lawyers. This was no small task. We simply must continue the battle so that NONE of our brothers are left sleeping on steam grates or eating out of garbage cans. We can do it, and the (economic) impact on each member is negligible. I don't believe that twelve dollars a year is too much to ask. I don't believe that there is anyone - even someone sleeping on the street - that can't afford a dollar a month to support an organization that has done so much for them, and can potentially do so much more for the Veteran Community.


        A good example of a successful organization is Club Trentino, a social club my parents helped to found over 30 years ago. They started with a dozen or so members who lent money to the organization to buy property on Gates Avenue, in Flushing, NY, and recruited new members. Today, and for a long time, Club Trentino has had a place to hold meetings, and a steady income from the building they own. It has since grown into a world-wide organization, because the members were united in their ideals and purpose.


       With these observations, I urge the principals of Veterans For Constitutional Law to consider implementing membership dues as a requirement for membership in the organization, and I implore all the members reading this to support this position, although our Executive Director Arthur Bernklau is against dues if any king, but is standing fast with the idea that donations - as little as they may be - is the only way he considers feasible due to the Veteran Community's being one of the poorest communities in America.


       Thank you,

       David Todeschini, Webmaster    


UPDATE November 2009:  Membership dues are now required - I was OFFICIALLY the first one to tender my membership dues.  




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Contact Information:

Veterans For Constitutional Law, Ltd.,
112 Jefferson Avenue,
Port Jefferson, N.Y. 11777

Tel # (631) 474-4261   Fax # (631) 474-1968

Art Bernklau, Executive Director
Contact Art Bernklau by e-Mail


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